Ed Burke has been encircled. Like the last noble loyal to Holy Roman Emperor Francis II, he must look at a map of the realm and despair. Where once he was among the most important men in a vast empire, the mere mention of its legions enough to induce action or, even better, forbearance, now all his compatriots have seceded, have declared their various independence, shifted their loyalties. The Empire, like the Machine and its successor, had always been a precarious balance of power centers, provincial warlords, regional alliances, and assimilated kingdoms. One look at the election returns, and its obvious: the ramshackle political establishment has been subsumed.
The precinct-level electoral map is a grim sight for a man like Ed Burke. Not because he once had some iron-fisted authority over the whole city; more like watching the team break up. Maybe another analogy is in order; I’ll indulge myself, that’s kind of my thing. He’s been playing on the Harlem Globetrotters, gleefully beating the Washington Generals (no pun intended; take a minute with that) but now he’s got NBA teams on his schedule. Suddenly, buckets of confetti and shorts-yanking won’t cut it.
Chicago Is a Global City
Chicago in going into a new era. As with most things, though, there was no clean break; it didn’t happen episodically. Since the mid-90s, Chicago has been churning towards membership in a network of “global cities.” I mean this in a very narrow sense. Chicago has been a no-quotes global city since the turn of the last century, when immigrants began pouring in in immense numbers and Chicago provided commodities to the entire planet and transportation to the nation. The “global network” I mean is the various outposts of transnational business. If that sounds nefarious, I don’t mean it to; the somewhat welcome breakdown in trade barriers and international monetary regimes allow financial firms to move fluidly over borders–which makes the borders less meaningful. Lopsided income distribution is putting more and more into the pockets of an ever-tightening group; whether that’s good or bad, it leaves it as a fact that there’s a smaller pool of people who can spend ever more money. For example on politics.
A search of news databases showed the the phrase “global city” did not appear in the same article as the words “Mayor Daley” until 2004. After 2004, it appeared over a dozen times, the first time the man himself using the phrase in 2007. By contrast, between 1989 (Daley’s election) and 2004 the “global city” and “Chicago” popped up together 83 times–nearly four times as often after 2004. What’s the point of all this? Only that the Mayor began focusing on transforming Chicago into whatever he imagined a “global city” to be fairly recently in his mayoralty.
Overlapping with this focus is the acceleration of privatization. The city has privatized 34 city services since 1990, with the vast majority, in terms of value and quantity, coming since 1995–also the year the schools came under Mayoral control. The Office of Management and Budget released a report finding that the City has saved up to $270mn+ between 1990 and 2002. Of those since 1995, by a significant margin the biggest instances came since 2004, including the Monroe Street garages, the Skyway, and of course the parking meters. The Skyway lease happened in 2004; the rights to it for 99 years were sold for just under $2bn to–wait, do you want to guess? A foreign firm. A Spanish consortium fund. Global city.
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